Gururaj Deshpande was one of the most sought-after billionaires in the mid-'90s. A self-made man, he left the country in 1973 to work as an engineer in North America. In 1987, he sold his first startup, Coral Networks, for $15 million, and in 1997, he sold Cascade Communications for $4 billion, making him one of the most successful technology entrepreneurs in the world. He then set up the Despande Foundation, which has pioneered the Sandbox concept.
In the Sandbox network, social impact ideas are seeded to build solutions for the rural poor. In under six years, Sandbox has accelerated more than 120 startups have been accelerated. “It is very important for people to come out there and build solutions for rural India,” he says. About 40 per cent of India's population lives below the poverty line, and programmes like Sandbox are encouraging ideas that impact the lives of these millions take shape as viable solution on grounds.
The success rate of social-impact startups is very important. There is a need for ideas in the field of price discovery, soil conservation, logistics and financial inclusion. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been pioneers in supporting social innovation companies. However, government policy is yet to find a way to make these companies innovate and succeed.
Gururaj's favourite hypothesis today is “policy as a proof-of-concept” where he advocates that policy should look at all the experiments happening in the startup spectrum, in any industry, and then use the learning to create impact. He is also on the board of companies like Tejas Networks and A123 Networks.
YourStory caught up with Gururaj to discover his views on how the Indian startup industry is shaping up and what this means for the emergence of a strong culture of innovation.
Camera person Rukmangada Raja
Video Editor: Anjali Achal